The Pak Ou Caves are a centuries old Buddhist pilgrimage sight near Luang Prabang that act as a kind of graveyard for damaged and decayed Buddha images.
For hundreds of years, the Buddhist inhabitants of north central Laos have made the often arduous journey along the Mekong River to deposit worn and broken Buddha images in a sacred cave. Today, after unbroken centuries of the practice, more than 3,000 statues rest inside two of the numerous limestone caves that riddle the bank. The images range from tiny teakwood carvings that might have once occupied a shrine in a larger household to human-sized figures that could have been central shrine images.
The Pak Ou Caves are the busiest during Laos New Year, when the largest numbers of pilgrims visit the ancient shrine. Though damaged, the images of Buddha are still highly venerated, and thousands of pilgrims spend the festival carefully washing the ancient religious icons in a reverent ceremony believed to bring spiritual merit to the devout.
The best sightseeing weather in north central Laos is during the temperate season that runs from November to May. Temperatures begin to climb in June, and the heat continues into October. The extra rainfall that comes with the higher temperatures during the second half of the year restores the verdant countryside of Laos to a lustrous green.
The Pak Ou Caves are about 5 miles north of Luang Prabang along the Mekong River. While it is possible to reach the caves overland, a boat cruise along the Mekong River is the preferred method for guests on our luxury tours of Laos to reach the destination.
The caves have an intriguing atmosphere that’s become a beacon for travelers coming through the area. A lazy boat cruise along the Mekong is the preferred route for most tourists to reach the area, and the relaxing journey up the calm river is often referred to as the highlight of the journey.
Appropriate Attire :
Dress for warm weather in light clothing, but remember the cave is sacred to Buddhist practitioners, and visitors should wear clothing that covers their shoulders, arms, and thighs while walking on holy ground.